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Enslaved on the previous album Mardraum started to take a different path. One that indeed has its roots in their oldest compositions, but still is just more modern and less concerned with being a viking and more concerned with true ancient Northern mysticism. However, Mardraum is in my opinion the low point of their career. It felt like they had to go through the pointless riff salads of that album then get away from the Abyss studio, come home to Norway and go into Grieghallen to find the inspiration to record this amazing record. Basically they had to throw all of those ideas out onto the wall that they did on their last two albums and then come back to a place in between there and the older works and find a medium that creates the maximum impact of atmosphere.
This album still has a lot of ideas, and the reason it doesn't get 100% is due to the fact that a few of them (namely the songs written by Kronheim) fails miserably either from the start or even more annoyingly half way through. The good thing is that most of the songs do not suffer this ignoble fate and were written by Bjornson and Kjellson. There is indeed a reason that Kronheim was kicked out/left the band after this album. One of his songs is like a stoner rock anthem and the other is overly death metal-ish with stupid solos in place. Good thing it's only two songs to skip. But still it is unfortunate the other members let him do these songs, for they miss the point totally of the other songs and seem very weak.
But the atmosphere on the other songs even the weird almost Sigur Ros like "Hollow Inside" is amazing. One gets a sensation of the cold Northern landscapes that are inside those who follow the pathway of the Northern mystic. Like I said, rather then dress up like Vikings and present themselves as being a part of the ancient past in that fashion, they focus in on the mystical beauty of Northern magic, cold mysterious and above all death like, the atmosphere on the non-Kronheim songs really is amazing, and more then makes up for the two songs you have to skip. Enslaved took the outside the box approach that weakened Mardraum and took out the stupid death metal-ish riff salads and instead focused on writing good songs, that are progressive in a way that is good and wholesome. Reminding most of all of the beautiful atmosphere of the first song from Eld, one feels Enslaved returning to the true ancient roots but far more mystical then before.
It also helps that they provide you with a nice writing that explains the recording and the generally very good lyrics which still give a Northern feeling, but are in English this time and do not feature Norse history lessons.
There is a fragile sense of beauty, eeire, mysterious and other worldly upon this recording. Like being high on a mountain above timberline looking across the alpine meadows and watching the clouds move while a storm approaches, this album seems to cast you deep within the artists minds. It is an amazing journey even despite the few bad moments, songs like "Convoys to Nothingness" and "The Voices" (the one two punch that opens this recording) are filled with such majesty that anyone who loves more outside of the box black metal must buy it just for those songs, and that's not saying anything about the greatness of other songs contained further in.
So in essence if you like Enslaved, even the older things, or the darker side of Northern mysticism, you must own this album. It is a mystical journey of the highest order.